The Community College of Rhode Island will host DebateWatch, a national program that gives citizens a direct voice in the political campaign process, Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the Vincent A. Cullen Field House at the Knight Campus in Warwick.
CCRI is a founding member of The Democracy Commitment, a leading national organization dedicated to promoting civic endeavors on community college campuses. In its inaugural event, CCRI is hosting this year’s DebateWatch with the cooperation of Rhode Island College’s American Democracy Project. This is the first step in a joint effort to reach out to students at both institutions and the greater Rhode Island community.
Valerie Endress and Kay Israel, associate professors in the Communication Department at RIC who coordinated previous DebateWatch events in 2004 and 2008, approached CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale about holding the event at the centrally located Knight Campus, and he enthusiastically agreed.
“CCRI is honored to host the 2012 DebateWatch and to welcome members of the community, elected officials and college and university students to our campus for this significant event,” Di Pasquale said. “Civic engagement plays a key role in a strong democracy, and DebateWatch gives us all a voice in the political campaign process as we look toward making an important decision at the polls this November.”
DebateWatch will bring together people from across Rhode Island and neighboring states to watch the first of the scheduled televised presidential debates. Doors will open at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m. a town hall-type meeting will be held during which co-moderators Bill Rappleye from NBC 10 and Mark Curtis from ABC6 will conduct “Meet the Press”-style interviews with many of the state’s past and current office holders and political experts.
The crowd will view the presidential debate on large screens at 9 p.m. When the debate ends, trained facilitators will lead small group discussions based on a series of questions similar to those at other DebateWatch sites throughout the country. Past questions have included: What did you learn about candidates and issues that you did not know before the debate?; What issues should be discussed at future debates?; What do you still need to know about candidates and issues?; What qualities do you look for in a president and what did see tonight about those qualities?; and others, including some about the format of the debate.
The results of the discussion and participants’ opinions are reported to the Commission on Presidential Debates and can effect real change in the campaign process. Endress said the commission has made important modifications to the debate structure – including the implementation of the town hall-style format and the extension of the debates from 60 to 90 minutes – based in part on attendees’ responses.
“The feedback can influence future debates,” Israel said. “With the two largest DebateWatch events in the country in 2004 and 2008, Rhode Island has some sway.” The events at RIC attracted 800 and 400 participants, respectively.
Results from the evening’s discussion also will be released to the media within 48 hours, and several members of the media are expected to attend to cover the local angle on this national debate event.
For more information or to register for DebateWatch visit www.ccri.edu/debatewatch.